Earlier, I’d mentioned how back in the eighties, when we were finding Avengers episodes wherever we could, that ideally meant swapping with other tape traders, but it also often meant either buying pirate videos or copying them from rental places. The Avengers Declassified has a page devoted to these pirate tapes, and looking back, the extraordinary thing is that these were all available in places like Blockbuster Video or Camelot Music or Record Bar. I mean, you would never, ever have found a copy of Great White Wonder or Live R Than You’ll Ever Be at Camelot Music, but bootleg Avengers videos were no problem!
Since there were several outfits churning these out, there was some cross-pollination, but each little line always seemed to have one or two episodes that you couldn’t find elsewhere. “Death of a Great Dane,” a second season episode that co-starred Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale, was the only Blackman episode that we ever found back in the day, and subsequent research hasn’t turned up any others. I’ve occasionally wondered how that one 16mm print ended up in the bootleggers’ hands. Just that one and no others from the first three series.
Like three of the earlier color Diana Rigg stories, “The £50,000 Breakfast” is a remake of an Honor Blackman adventure. Roger Marshall had written “Great Dane” and his original story was given what I remember as a very light rewrite. (It has been many, many years since I’ve seen “Great Dane” and no longer have a copy, so I might be mistaken there!) But what’s interesting is that I didn’t see “The £50,000 Breakfast” for simply ages, probably not until the A&E network started screening them. So while the other three remakes I got to know via their second versions, it was the other way around this time, thanks to the video pirates.
One very low note from the rewrite, however, comes when Steed dismisses a steel band from Trinidad as playing “jungle music.” We certainly told our son that was completely inappropriate. Unlike our experience with the movie this morning, our son was much, much more attentive and curious, and didn’t interrupt the show at all. I paused it to give him a little explanation into diamond smuggling, and he was later able to give a quick and decent recap of the story to his mother when she joined us partway through.
It’s been too long for me to honestly compare the two, but “The £50,000 Breakfast” does have David Langton and Anneke Wills in small roles. Wills’ part here is just one small scene, and she made it between leaving Doctor Who and co-starring in ITC’s terrific Strange Report. “Great Dane” is no slouch on the guest star front either; it had John Laurie and Frederick Jaeger (him again!) in it. The original, of course, features great danes and the remake has Russian wolfhounds. Whichever you watch, it’s a good story, with a simple mystery around why an incredibly rich financier would need to resort to diamond smuggling. It’s far less fanciful than most of the color episodes, and much more down to earth. More on that subject another time.